I wanted to share this interview because if you have not read Higgs, you are the lesser for it. He is almost in the same orbit as Rothbard when it comes to the intellectual foundations for pressing for liberty and freedom. I especially appreciate the way he capitalizes on the singular advantage that libertarians tend to have when viewing history: we know that power is the primary function regardless of alleged party affiliation which animates all lust for power. Politicians, with rare exceptions, are sociopaths and psychopaths who are in the rarefied legal vocation of achieving wealth and prestige with no merit whatsoever. The Republicans provide a great demonstration project for the alleged “small government” perspective in our electoral system: a clear explication for why the Grand Old Politburo behaved in such a Soviet fashion from 2000-2006 when they had all the power. History is so much clearer when you realize it is the continuous and briefly punctuated march to total control of the populations the bureaucrats farm and the variations thereof. The collectivists are murderously efficient when it comes to grabbing the levers of power and bulldozing all notions of decency and liberty in their path. You will note that, excepting Ron Paul, not one GOP member stood up and asked that the Government got out of health care altogether much like our desires to get the government out of the classroom. Period. The powers that be are more concerned with the aggregation of the powers of arrest and confinement (and death in cases of resistance) to their ever expanding agenda of total control. Those who think the election of new serial killers and gaolors in 2012 will turn this rusted hulk around will be sorely disappointed. Continue to prepare for the worst. -BB
Daily Bell: What is going on now? How do the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq fit into the larger goals of the nation’s military industrial complex?
Robert Higgs: These wars have an overarching geopolitical goal, which is to make the United States the dominant power in the Great Game region, ensuring the exclusion of competing powers China and Russia and intimidating uncooperative regional powers, especially Iran. Underlying this goal is the U.S. power elite’s belief that they must control access to the vast energy resources of the Caspian Sea region and, not coincidentally, reap great profits for U.S. energy and energy-facility-construction companies in the process. The wars themselves, which have cost more than a trillion dollars so far, have been a godsend for the military leadership and for the tens of thousands of contractors and their employees who have been able to plunder the Treasury, owing in part to the loose or nonexistent accounting associated with doing business in the war zones. Of course, the war in Iraq has also been aimed at weakening or destroying Israel’s enemies.
Daily Bell: Will the West be going to war against Iran?
Robert Higgs: I hope not, but I do not know. I am certain, however, that if the U.S. military or its Israeli counterpart launches at attack against Iran, the result will be catastrophic in every regard and that the only possible gainers will comprise no one except the political leadership of Israel and a handful of political figures and their “intellectual” shills in the United States. War against Iran is simply another scheme to satisfy the neo-cons’ bloodlust and fulfill their ideological fantasies – nothing more and nothing less.
Daily Bell: What is the meaning of these serial modern wars? What is the West, particularly the Anglo-American axis, trying to accomplish?
Robert Higgs: Different persons and groups with influence on this war-making have different goals. The political leaders understand that war is the health of the state, and as the state’s kingpins they stand to benefit politically (and in many cases materially, in due course) from U.S. aggression against weak countries in the Third World. An array of economic interests – the so-called military-industrial complex – stands to gain profits, as do other parties, such as some of the big financial institutions. Influential political groups, such as the U.S. evangelical denominations, have become iron-clad supporters of militarism and of pro-Israel actions of all sorts. The military itself seeks to get or to maintain a gigantic flow of money and the power and positions associated with maintenance of a globe-girdling empire of bases. Overarching all of these particular interests is the shared ambition many members of the U.S. power elite have in maintaining U.S. global hegemony, and in using the leverage such hegemony provides to serve a variety of subsidiary interests, ambitions, and fantasies.
Daily Bell: Are you optimistic about freedom going forward? Has the Internet had a positive impact?
Robert Higgs: In the United States and other advanced Western countries, freedom continues to shrink. The wars in the Middle East and the current economic crisis have accelerated the movement toward totalitarianism. Meanwhile, however, in other parts of the world, most importantly in China and India, economic freedom continues to increase, with magnificent consequences for the economic well-being of hundreds of millions of people long trapped in poverty.
On balance, the Internet seems to have had a positive effect in strengthening the position of people who are resisting the ongoing growth of government. It has not been sufficient to stop that growth, but matters might have been even worse had the Internet not been available to permit the rapid, inexpensive transmission of counterarguments and counterevidence to the government’s unceasing lies and propaganda.
Daily Bell: What is the future for America? Is it in inevitable decline or will the Internet, like the Gutenberg press that came before, change the course of history for America, Britain and the West and help reverse the decline and usher in a modern Renaissance, etc.?
Robert Higgs: I foresee no new Renaissance. People in the West today are more inclined to believe economic, social, and political nonsense than their nineteenth-century ancestors were. Statism is rampant in many forms and many areas of social and economic life. People are ideologically brainwashed by the government schools and the mass media. The intellectuals are overwhelmingly opposed to economic freedom and inclined toward various more-or-less totalitarian schemes. Fears about a looming global-warming catastrophe and other ill-founded scenarios generate widespread delusions, receive constant stoking by the media, and keep the academics and the crony capitalists well served with grants, contracts, and consulting fees, among other things.
Daily Bell: What is the Independent Institute doing to arrest the authoritarian decline of the West and America in particular? Is it speaking out or is it involved in any particular educational endeavors?
Robert Higgs: The Independent Institute sponsors a wide variety of studies, conferences, and public programs to spread more reliable information about sounder analyses of economic, political, scientific, and related developments. Its fellows and affiliated scholars write and speak actively in diverse venues, on television, on the radio, and in personal appearances before many different groups in academia and among the general public. The Institute also operates a scholarship program to allow young people to attend private schools and a summer program for high-school and college students that focuses on instruction in the basics of philosophical, economic, and political understanding.
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